When the weather forecast calls for beating sun and suffocating humidity, dressing to go anywhere that isn’t a pool or near a body of water is a struggle. Under those same uncomfortable circumstances, figuring out what to wear to the office in the summer can feel damn near impossible.
Unfortunately, dress codes aren’t so lax that you can show up in a bathing suit and cutoff shorts (at least in most work environments). So what do you wear when the code of conduct calls for modesty, but the weather outside is hot and miserable? Preferably something comfortable and breathable, but that also feels elevated and sleek, rather than overly casual.
As limiting as that sounds, putting together outfits that work for a hot-then-cold cubicle can be done. To offer a few no-fail, cool-for-the-summer outfit formulas, we reached out to experts in the space, who delivered their best recommendations for what to wear to the office for summer 2022.
Anything Linen Is a Go
There’s a reason why linen is associated with summer dressing: the fabric is comfortable, breathable, and helps to keep your body from overheating — elements that, according to MiKADO personal style advisor, Jordan Stolch, make it the ideal summer office wardrobe staple. To style the material for the workplace, Stolch tells InStyle she’d opt for a linen blazer paired with a simple T-shirt and trousers, or an A-line linen skirt styled with a classic silk button-down.
Stock Up On Shirt Dresses
Stolch is convinced shirt dresses are one of the top must-haves for the office this summer — and we agree.
Dressed up with a block heel or worn with your favorite flat, the stylist ensures this unstructured silhouette “maintains breathability, while keeping you looking polished and put together in the process.”
Rock a Seasonal Pantsuit
Pantsuits have been a hot ticket item in 2022, and according to Stolch, they’ll continue to reign supreme at the workplace this summer. Celebrity stylist Lindsey DuPuis agrees, and is urging her clients to lean into boldly colored solid sets for the season. To make your suits feel fresh and modern, Stolch recommends swapping out your conventional business button-down for a classic cotton T-shirt and trading in neutral color palettes for pastels and rich jewel tones.
One-and-Done Outfits Are A Win
The pandemic taught us that when it comes to getting dressed for the day, comfort is key, but so is convenience, especially when you’re dressing to actually leave the house. For stylist Erica Ball, that translates to one-piece outfits like jumpsuits and dresses, especially for a summer office wardrobe.
“Solid color cotton poplin dresses are especially flattering and easy to wear for work in the summer. Style them with sandals or sneakers and add a cropped cardigan for texture,” Ball tells InStyle via email. “Jumpsuits are also a great summer workplace alternative. I’d look for a sleeveless option that can be worn with a tailored blazer for more work-appropriate polish when indoors.”
A Blazer Is Always Timeless
One staple piece to add to your work capsule wardrobe (and any capsule wardrobe, really) is a lightweight oversized blazer. For the summer, specifically, fashion and design expert Nicole Rattner recommends investing in a lighter, neutral color that is versatile and office-appropriate, but still very on-trend.
“Throw one on with an airy, silky dress, especially if your workplace leans more corporate and conservative (or if the AC is always cranked up).,” Rattner tells us. “For casual offices, style a blazer with an elevated tee and a pair of high-waisted, lighter wash denim shorts — think a polished “mom” style with a long inseam and finished hem.”
Midi Over Mini Skirts
When it’s hot as haides outside, you might be tempted to reach for your favorite micro-mini, but stylist and host of Fashion Crimes Podcast Holly Katz recommends opting for a midi skirt instead. It’s still just as easy and breezy, but will always be appropriate for the office in summer.
“If you can wear open-toe shoes in the office, then wear this type of skirt with some adorable patterned mules. If not, then rock it with some sneakers and a vintage tee,” Katz says. “Throw on a beaded or jeweled denim jacket or cardi when they crank up the air so they can’t freeze you out of your workspace.”
Puff Sleeves Add Playfulness
Sprinkle a bit of Bridgerton vibes into your summer work wardrobe with a puff sleeve number. It’ll help breathe new life into the common workday dress, and, Katz says, ensures you’re able to go from on-duty to off-duty with a change of accessories.
“Change from a summer white bootie and work tote to a sleek, strappy heel, statement earring and shiny clutch for dinner and drinks straight from work,” she instructs. “This dress is also ideal with a canvas sneaker, crossbody bag, and ball cap for a casual, comfortable day with no client meetings on the books!”